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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Paris is Always a Good Idea

by Cynthia Osborn

"Paris is always a good idea”
Yes, I begin my first post by quoting Audrey Hepburn in the classic 1954 movie, Sabrina, in which the young Audrey goes to Paris for a year for cooking school and comes back a transformed, sophisticated lady. 
Last summer, with my classmates & my awesome program director from Rome!


 
I myself am only staying in Paris for a month or so, but nevertheless I know I too will come home a changed person as well. Study abroad does have the tendency to change your life, after all, and I especially would know this firsthand; this will be my 2nd time studying abroad and I’m so excited to be able to do this again! 
June 2011, Coliseum, Rome


And so sorry, it appears I've forgotten to introduce myself! My name is Cynthia, and I'm 20 year old lover of art, words, and all things old fashioned, and I am currently transferring from the University of North Texas to the University of Texas in Austin to become an Advertising major. And before last summer, I had never been on an airplane my entire life nor stepped foot outside this continent. But before I know it I’m on a 16-hour flight all by myself, flying across the Atlantic to a foreign country I dreamt of visiting since I was a little girl. My summer in Rome, Italy last year was so life changing and eye opening in so many ways, that it is honestly hard to describe it without sounding cliché. Since Rome I’ve been bolder, more confident in myself, and less afraid to step outside my comfort zone. But since then, I have also missed Rome terribly, and I’ve missed the feeling of traveling somewhere brand new and discovering new things. As soon as I got home I was incurably restless for weeks, and one day a very important question came to mind: yes, people say studying abroad is an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity, and yes, it is amazing, but who on earth said it can only happen once? This little idea gave birth to a series of events that today, many months later, have put me 3 days away from returning to Europe again, after just one year! Life is so unbelievable sometimes, in a wonderful way.
 

So first Rome, and now Paris. Why Paris? Paris is known to be a romantic city, and I am a very romantic person at heart, in the sense that I eat art, breath literature, drink poetry… you get the idea. So I am absolutely thrilled to be living here for the summer; I will walk the same streets that so many artists and authors that I adore also walked years and years ago. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso, Wilde, Matisse, Monet… just to name a few! 
I've been counting down the
days for quite some time now

I am most excited to soak in all that is Parisian life, all the culture, (and all of the food haha) and take as much of it as I can with me back home. (If I could take the food back home with me, I would too!) And I know I am absolutely going to love Paris and will probably never want to leave, but for now, all I feel are nerves! I already know I will not pack a thing until the night before my flight because a huge part of me is still in total denial. To add to my nervousness, I’m traveling alone again, which is still a bit scary since traveling by plane is still new to me. I will land in France not knowing anybody, but I am sure my classmates will be awesome and I can’t wait to share this experience with them. I am also quite nervous about the fact that I have only one humble semester of French under my belt, and I know not knowing the language will be extremely intimidating and overwhelming when I first get there. But I am more than ready to work my hardest and learn as much French as I can, and who knows, maybe hearing the language for an entire summer will help me finally master the pronunciation of that very tricky French “r”!
A few essentials for the trip!


But for now, I must make another attempt to pack, and keep reading up on all the things I want to do and see once I land in Paris (I recently learned about the existence of a doll museum; I must check that out!)

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you all!
À la prochaine!
- Cynthia


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Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Gelato a Day...

by John Hodges

As I predicted, it hit me that I was going to Florence while I was on the plane.  Thankfully, I was able to “help myself” to the complimentary wine and calm my nerves.  When I arrived in Florence I told myself I would only speak in Italian (except to my roommates).  It was an interesting cab drive to be sure... 

When I arrived, I was greeted by Taylor, the student resident.  She showed me the apartment and then we grabbed a panino at the paninoteca across the street.  It doesn’t surprise that my first meal in Italy was a panino; and for the record, it was fantastic.  Waiting for my other roommates to arrive, I met the on-site director, Chiara.  She’s extremely enthusiastic about her job and for someone who has only visited New York once, her english is incredible. 

Ponte Vecchio
The next day our group had an orientation of the city.  We toured various parts of the city including Piazza della Signoria and the Ponte Vecchio.  My favorite part was Orsanmichele.  It was built as a granary, warehouse, and marketplace, but after a painting of the Virgin Mary “appeared” in the granary, it gradually became a place of worship.  Thanks to Chiara, we got to see the holes and hooks in the structure that served as grain chutes and storage (now covered in religious frescoes).  At the end of the tour, we got gelato.  I got stracciatella and consequently added a new guideline to my trip: eat a gelato every day.

Fresh Market the size of Walmart
Later that night we went to dinner in a less touristy place near Piazza Santo Spirito.  I got spaghetti with tomatoes, garlic, and basil, a side of spinach and of course a bottle of house wine.  Needless to say, it was the best pasta I’ve ever had in my entire life.  The secret is the ingredients, and after being to the fresh market a few blocks from my house, I know why Italy has the best food in the world.  Everything is totally fresh and free from preservatives and other additives.  Unlike Whole Foods, it is also completely affordable. 

"Treasure Chest Room"

 Last week we took a tour of the secret passageways of the Palazzo Vecchio.  I have never seen more paintings and gold in one place.  At on point we were standing inside a treasure chest made of beautiful paintings and gold picture frames. 

I’ll wait while that sinks in.

 What better way to store all your valuables then inside a giant room designed to look like a treasure chest?  I can’t think of any.  Full of massive frescoes and lavish cabinets made of inlaid stone panels, the Palazzo Vecchio is one place I’ll have a hard time forgetting. 

With so many amazing experiences over the past week, I’m eagerly anticipating living in Florence for another six weeks.

A presto,
John Hodges


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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Estancia: Gaucho Fun

by Lisa Goodman


Estancia Santa Susana

Yesterday, Carly and I decided to take a break from the bustling city of Buenos Aires and go get some fresh air and experience an important part of Argentine culture. We went to an Estancia, which is like a ranch. There are “gauchos,” who can be compared to the American cowboy. It was so nice to see the more rural, yet still beautiful, part of Argentina.

We went to the Estancia Santa Susana, which is a beautiful complex that has a lot of pastureland for horses. First we were treated to an authentic asado, which is a big barbeque. There were so many yummy things to choose from, there were sausages chicken and beef. The steak was my favorite; it was so tender and delicious. I wish I could have asado more often!


Folk Music

While we were eating lunch, we saw many different type of folkloric dances and music. The music was amazing, and the singer not only had an incredible voice, but he also played the “bandoneón,” which is a large accordion that is specific to Argentine tango and milonga. We also saw a pair dance to the milonga music, and they truly embodied the drama and passion that is characteristic to this type of dance. After, we saw gaucho dances, which were my personal favorite of all the dances. There were two gaucho dancers who would dance one after the other because they were battling for the beautiful female dancer. This was actually common in old gaucho culture, since the man who could dance the best and show his skills won the admiration of the woman. I couldn’t tell you who won, because both were superb!


Asado

We then were lucky enough to see the gauchos show their mastery of horseback riding. They corralled horses and also were able to make them run in distinct patterns. The most impressive skill was how they were able to control the horses and also perform tricks. For example, there was a stand with three rings that were hanging from it. A gaucho would ride his horse at full speed, and with a needle, would take the ring. It was truly an amazing sight to see. I am excited to say that one of the gauchos gave the ring that he got. The same gaucho also let me ride with him on the back of his horse. I was a little scared because I had not ridden a horse in more than twelve years, but it was actually really fun. I must admit, I did hold on much tighter when we were galloping. However, I trusted his skill and experience, and I had a really great time.

Going to the Estancia Santa Susana was amazing. I highly recommend taking a day to explore this part of Argentine culture.




Until my next adventure,

Lisa


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Typical Weekend in BA

by Kara Bijesse  




Since last time I wrote, I have moved out of my homestay into a residence in Palermo Soho. I live with about 60 students from all over the world, particularly from Latin America and others from the United States as well. It has been nice to have people constantly around and leaves no time for a dull moment. I have made so many new friends and I believe my Spanish has improved also since I moved in because there is always someone around to answer a question about my homework or simply sit and practice talking with. The location is great, right near all the bars and restaurants and not too far from school. Although the room is the size of my freshman dorm room, and the security here treats us like we are hormonal 14 year olds who are looking for trouble, I am really happy with my move and am so glad I decided to change housing situations for the second half of the semester.

Me at the BA Art Exibition
 
Anyways, this weekend, after plans to go to Rosario with friends from the residence fell through, due to lack of planning on our part, we decided to spend the weekend in Buenos Aires and explore the city. On Saturday, Rebecca and I went to the Buenos Aires Art Exhibition that was only in town for a week. It was conveniently located only four blocks away from the residence. We paid 25 pesos to get in with our student ID cards and spent a couple of hours exploring the exhibition. Most of the pieces were modern art and very interesting. Some of it we could not even tell if it was art or not! For example, we came across a shopping cart filled with dirt… either an attempt at art or someone had a very big hole to fill outside. We were not really sure. Despite the select few curious pieces like this one, the rest were beautiful. The gorgeous colors and shapes in the paintings and sculptures made me wish I had any artistic talent whatsoever. That night some friends from the residence and I went to an all you cant eat Korean barbeque restaurant. After our bellies were full of five different varieties of meat, sea food with the eyes still intact and other mysterious looking condiments which I had never seen before, we went to a Karaoke bar across the street to finish the night with an embarrassing display of singing and dancing.

Llama and Poney at the Feria de Mataderos Market

Sunday we took the bus outside the city to a market called Feria de Mataderos. This market was the biggest yet that I have seen In Buenos Aires, full of stands selling knickknacks, cloths, jewelry and everything under the sun. What I found most impressive was the vast numbers of food stands that this Market had, with endless amounts of meats, cheeses, empanadas, spreads ect. Basically any type of food one could ever desire was there. We bought our knickknacks, filled our bellies once again with delicious market food and headed home to study for our upcoming finals this week. I leave for California in eight days, and although I am sad to leave Buenos Aires and all the friends I have made here, I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends back home.



Hasta luego!
-Kara Bijesse

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Lujan Zoo: Lions and Tigers… Oh My!

by Lisa Goodman 

If you are in Buenos Aires, it is important to take advantage of all the other amazing things you can do in the surrounding areas. Going to the Lujan Zoo, for example, is an experience that I guarantee you will not find in many other places. It is easy to get there, just take the bus, number 57, from Plaza Italia (which is a neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Capital Federal) and within an hour and you will be dropped off near the zoo – just make sure to tell the bus driver beforehand and he will advise you where to get off.

The Lujan Zoo isn’t that large, but it is not the quantity of animals that makes it an amazing zoo, but what you can do there. You can touch lions and tigers, (both adults and cubs) ride a camel, feed an elephant, feed a tiger, play with a monkey, and see other animals. I will talk about some of my favorite experiences that I had at this zoo, since there are so many to choose from! It was a truly unforgettable experience.

I first went to the cage that had the adult lions. In the cage there was a large male lion (who looked like Mufasa from the Lion King) and his mate. I was able to take a picture with him and touch his mane. He was a very large lion; I cannot even begin to guess how much he weighed. It was a little scary, but the lion was so soft and friendly. I made sure to follow the instructions of the caretakers, so I wouldn’t scare him. The staff knew exactly what they were doing, and made me feel comfortable every step of the way.

Then, I went off to see the tiger and lion cubs. The youngest of the cubs were put in the same cage. The cubs were only a couple of months old; they were so adorable! I made sure to be very gentle when I touched them, since they were so small. There were also puppies in the cage as well. At this zoo, they raise dogs with the tigers and lions so they will be more tame and relaxed. They become companions and friends for life, which goes to show you that dogs and cats can get along. I also visited an older cub that was about a year old, and I got to give him a nice hug.

I also got the chance to feed a grown tiger. That was definitely a little scary, since there were about six grown tigers in the cage. When I first was petting the tiger, and the trainer asked me if I wanted to feed him, I could hardly believe my luck! I never thought I would ever feed a tiger in my life. The trainer gave me a large bottle of milk, and I used it to feed the tiger. I squeezed the milk on my hand so the tiger could lick it, and I laughed so much because it tickled.

Another amazing thing I did was feed an elephant. I was given two bananas, and I was told to stand right under the elephant, offer up the banana, and once he took it, to quickly take my hand away. I did this twice, and each time was so incredible! When you look up, all you see is the trunk of the elephant that is searching for the banana, and then the trunk grabs the banana from your hand. I have never been so close to an elephant before!

If you are in Buenos Aires, make sure to take a day trip to the Lujan Zoo; it will be an experience that you will never forget.






Lisa

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Welcome to Barcelona!

By Mariam Ketner

Hi again, it is official… I have been in Barcelona for a few days now and I absolutely love it! So, here is what has been going on the past couple days...


Mmmm... Tapas!
 I met my roommate, Breanne, at the airport about an hour after my flight and we spent the day together getting settled into our apartment, meeting our fellow classmates, and went to our first Tapas restaurant right across the street from our apartment. We were so exhausted the first day (from obviously not getting much rest on the airplane) that we slept for a solid 5 hours until our second roommate, Nicki, arrived. After we got settled in and acquainted with each other we met the whole group at Tasca I Vins Restaurant&Taverna, a local restaurant in our neighborhood of Sagrada Familia. We all enjoyed homemade sangria, salad, bread with fresh garlic, olive oil, and half a tomato and my personal favorite, patatas bravas (fried potatoes with a paprika/chipotle sauce on top). Definitely had some new flavors to try, but overall it was a great first meal with everyone. The next couple days we roamed around our area and hit up a few local markets for fresh fruit and vegetables and checked out a few bars and clubs.


City Bike Tour
I know we were all anticipating an opportunity to really explore the area and we finally got the chance on our amazing bike tour led by Jordan, an affiliate of GSE, whom we all got to meet during our orientation with Inma and Patricia. I never really knew how much history is connected to all areas of the city, it was truly fascinating. We saw Placa Sant Jaume where the official government buildings reside; Placa del Rei (the medieval royal palace); the Palau de la Musica, one of my favorites, which is one of the most colorful and unique buildings; Parc de la Ciutadella (the central park); Santa Maria del Mar (a really cool gothic church); Port Vell (harbor with shops, restaurants, and sailboats); and Barceloneta, the most exciting beach town nearby. Every stopping point was unique and all the places were so beautiful, it was a truly rewarding experience and we all felt more knowledgeable on our home for the next 6 weeks.

 

Prior to our amazing bike tour we had our orientation at UAB and course presentation. I am really excited to learn about the heritage, culture, history, and art movements that have influenced Spain. Overall, everything has been so amazing and I am looking forward to more experiences and more adventures this Summer!

Until next time,

Mariam





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GSE Summer 2012 - Barcelona, Spain
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

Final Impressions


The GSE Group

by Jeff Charbonneau

Well, I have successfully made it through my semester abroad and what a semester it was. The experience was incomparable to anything else I’ve done in my life and I am so happy to have done it.

The friendships that I have made along the way are what I will cherish most. Everyone that participated in the GSE program this semester were very fun and enthusiastic, which helped make for a great four months.


Visiting the Louvre

Paris has so much to offer, and while I feel that I had seen everything I wanted, in terms of tourist sites and museums, I wish I had even more time to experience some of the lesser known attractions.

I found that one of my favorite places to visit was the Louvre. I visited the museum many times by myself, with friends from GSE and with friends and family from home that came to visit me. I really enjoyed that every time I went to the Louvre I would always discover something new to see, as the museum is so large there was never enough time to see all of it in one visit.

Another favorite place of mine was the Eiffel Tower. This may be the typical choice for a favorite destination in Paris, however, I found the picnics beside the tower with friends to be a great way to relax and soak in the experience.


In the gardens of Versailles

My favorite local day trip was the Palace of Versailles. I went to the palace and the gardens many times with friends and family and always was able to find something new to see or do. I really enjoyed the splendor of the fountains and gardens and my walks along the canal My favorite excursion with the GSE group was the trip to Nice and Monaco. The warm weather and beaches were a welcomed break from the cold weather in Paris midway through the semester. I also really enjoyed the atmosphere of Carnival in the French Riviera.

I was happy to have been able to show Paris to my parents and some of my friends from home. It was the first time to Paris for everyone who came to visit me and it was fun to see their excitement when visiting all of the city’s sites and cafes.

The thing that I will miss most about Paris, with the exception of my friends, is the food. I stopped by a bakery every morning on the way to class to get my favorite almond croissant and coffee. I will miss the baguettes, macaroons, crepes, and the many restaurants that line each boulevard.


Dressed up for Carnival in Nice

Now that it is over and I have graduated from college it is time to start a new chapter in my life. I hope to keep in contact with all of my new friends and to visit the city again sometime in the future. I wish the best of luck to my fellow GSE participants and to the future waves of students abroad in Paris. I am thankful for this experience and for being able to share it via this blog.


Thank you,

Jeff

Monday, June 18, 2012

Barcelona Bound

By Mariam Ketner

Hi Everyone!

This is my first official blog post of my 2012 Barcelona Study Abroad and I am jumping with anticipation. I guess I should start by introducing myself. My name is Mariam, I am an almost graduated college student from Seattle and I decided about 8 months ago I wanted to invest in a life changing experience. I seriously cannot believe it is just around the corner, I have so many feelings but more than anything I  am so thankful and so excited to have this opportunity and I cannot wait to make the most out of it.

I wish I could say that I am fully prepared and organized, but being a college student requires a bit of procrastination, right? I just finished typing up my last paper for the quarter and now I am on to my next task: PACKING. Normally I would be consumed with anxiety right about now but after meeting my roommates via Facebook and talking with them for the past couple weeks I feel much more relieved. I have been keeping updated with the current weather in Barcelona so I have a pretty good idea of what clothes to bring and what would be considered unnecessary, (shorts-yes, 6 inch heels-not so much). I have been fortunate enough to travel overseas so dealing with long airplane rides and jetlag shouldn’t be too difficult for me, it’s all part of the experience anyway.

As far as being gone for almost 2 months goes, there have definitely been moments of sadness. I will miss my family and friends more than anything, they are my true support system. The beautiful beach park down the hill from my house, Starbucks, and of course the eclectic scene of downtown Seattle-all great things about Washington State. Thankfully technology today will allow me to keep in touch via Skype, Internet, etc. so I know I don’t have anything to really worry about.

More importantly, I am so excited to meet everyone joining the program! Turns out my roommates are also traveling solo which makes me feel a lot better, knowing I’m not the only one going alone. Once I get there the two things I’m most looking forward to is trying the Spanish cuisine, as I have heard only great things, and exploring Spain and other parts of Europe. My future roommates and I have already talked about places we would like to go visit in our free time which is great. We also laughed about the fact that none of us are very strong in Spanish language. I personally haven’t taken Spanish since high school so I’m curious to see if I start picking things up or if I just have to start all over.

Either way, I plan on making the most out of every circumstance and every situation because this is a once in a lifetime chance and I am so excited to indulge into a new culture and new surroundings with new people. To me, this is what life is all about. I look forward to sharing my experience with you!

Until next time,

Mariam


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GSE Summer 2012 - Barcelona, Spain
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Iguazu Falls: The Beauty of Nature

by Lisa Goodman 

There is no way to describe the beauty that is Iguazu Falls. Situated in the Northeast of Argentina, bordering Brazil, are chains of waterfalls that stretch for miles.  Iguazu is not only home to these famous waterfalls, but there are many other activities you can do.

The first day we arrived, we all decided to begin our adventure by zip lining through the subtropical jungle and to repel down a small waterfall. Zip lining was extremely fun, the crew was efficient and I felt very safe. We walked up a large ladder and zip lined a total of three times because we would arrive at one tree and then climb up further and then go down again. The rush was amazing and it was a great view of the jungle. Also, we repelled down a waterfall. I must admit that I was very scared because I am afraid of heights. But, after overcoming my fear, I decided to repel. I am glad I did it because it was very thrilling.

However, the most amazing part of Iguazu is its waterfalls. We started at the most famous waterfall, La Garganta del Diablo “The Devil’s Throat,” and it is truly a site to see. I saw it from many angles. At first I was right above it, and then I also saw it from farther away when we hiked down the trail to see the other falls. The falls are very powerful and I got soaked by the amount of spray, so it was difficult to take pictures of it, but thankfully I have a good picture of this particular waterfall when I was farther away from it.

Hiking down the trail, we got to see all the other waterfalls. The contrast of the blue rushing water and the green jungle was amazing. I was lucky enough to see a rainbow in the middle of some of the waterfalls. In one of my pictures I am in the middle of the rainbow. The view was absolutely spectacular.

After reaching the bottom, we took a boat and actually went in some of the waterfalls. Of course, these waterfalls were smaller and safe to go into on a boat. The water was surprisingly pleasant and not cold at all. I recommend wearing a swimsuit when you do this because you will be taking the longest shower of your life. We then proceeded to race in the boat towards the shore, which made for an exciting ride. Then, we took a small tour and learned about the different flora and fauna that are present in Iguazu. I saw a beautiful bird that was very colorful and many different types of exotic butterflies. It is rare to see large animals because not only are many nocturnal, but also they are very shy.

If you visit Argentina, you must go to Iguazu Falls! It is a once in a lifetime experience and the second largest chain of waterfalls in the world. It is humbling to see the beauty and power of nature, and I hope all of you can come and see the falls in person.

Until my next adventure,

Lisa

Monday, June 11, 2012

Iguazu Falls

by Kara Bijesse

Last weekend the GSE group and I took our trip to Iguazu to see the waterfalls. We met at the airport early Friday morning to catch a seven o’clock flight. The flight took about two hours. Once we arrived we were picked up by a shuttle and brought to our hostel. The hostel was unexpectedly nice. On the way our driver told us a little bit about the area and different activities we could do during our stay including trekking, zip-lining, repelling, nature reserves and more. It had a big pool, a bar and a snack-bar type restaurant. We were all tired from the trip so we decided to take naps and relax until lunch.

After lunch at the hostel we decided to try the zip-lining adventure. We were picked up at the hostel and taken to a safari-style bus. It took about twenty-five minutes to get to the town where there was a small waterfall and a zip-lining course that the program had set up for us. The employees were all very friendly and led a great day through the rainforest. Although the planned adventure they had set up for us was great, I am mostly happy that I decided to do it because of what I saw on my way to and from the course. I did not expect to see such extreme poverty in the area. In the villages we passed, most of the people lived in small, run down homes and many of the children ran around without shoes or clothes. The way they lived appeared to be almost third world, something I have never really been exposed to before. Although this was such a small part of the weekend, it was an experience I am really appreciative that I had, especially with my interest in children and poverty throughout the world. Next time I travel to South America, I hope to be able to do something to help better the lives of people in situations like these.

The next day we woke up early and headed to the waterfalls. Once we got to the park we took a train up to the top part of the falls were they began. They called this area La Gargantua Del Diablo, or in English, “the devils throat.” The strength and power of the falls was incredible. We got so close to them that we left the area soaking wet. Next came the middle and bottom parts of the waterfalls where we got to see incredible views and wildlife. We were even lucky enough to see a Toucan, a bird I never thought I would see outside of the fruit loops commercial. Our last activity of the day was the boat tour, which took us around the bottom of the falls and even underneath. None of us expected to get as soaking wet as we did, but nonetheless it was a really fun and thrilling experience.

That night at the hostel we meet some people from Holland and England. We spent the remainder of the trip with our new friends exploring the town, laying by the pool, and exploring the sad excuse for a “night life” that Iguazu had with their one club the size of my bedroom blaring horrible music. Overall, we found the situation humorous and I had the opportunity to debut my horrible solo dance skills. The night turned out great and reflecting upon the trip, the boys and I were so glad we had befriended the others from the hostel, whom we now plan on meeting up with again in Buenos Aires. The nerve ridden adrenaline rush I experienced from zip lining and boating, the awe and amazement I felt at standing at the base of one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the great weather we had on Sunday and the opportunity to see and talk to people from different cultures and walks of life added up to a wonderful trip that I will never forget.



Hasta luego!
-Kara Bijesse

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GSE Spring 2012 - Buenos Aires, Argentina
University of Belgrano



Let Your Heart Be Where Your Feet Are

By Anna Simmons


 Kharissa and I after we climbed the Eiffel Tower
(no easy feat in a dress!)

As I got ready to leave Paris, my emotions felt kind of at war with themselves over how to feel: super happy to see my family and friends again Stateside, or distraught that I have to leave my home of the past four months. Because despite homesickness for Georgia and distance from my loved ones, Paris really did come to feel like another home to me and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that my last couple weeks in Paris were spent visiting and revisiting the major sights, saying goodbye to favorite spots, and aimlessly wandering though (also getting lost in) the streets whilst nostalgically thinking about how much I’ll miss this landmark, that patisserie, etc. I know, I know—I’m sappy.


Being silly with friends from class. I'll miss you so much!

But really, you probably would be too if you’d had as incredible a semester as I did. I feel so blessed and so lucky that I was able to do this, to live in another country for almost half a year, to see everything I got to see and make so many new friends from all over the world. The saddest part for me about leaving Paris was leaving all my new friends. But even though I don’t know when I’ll see them next, I can’t wait to see them all in my future travels to South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Denmark; everywhere. One of the nicest parts about having friends all over the world is having at least one couch to sleep on in like seven different countries whenever I visit them!



In front of the Louvre,
 just one of the museums I hit up in my
last couple weeks in the city

Over the semester, I think I almost doubled my fluency level in French. But apart from all the grammar rules and French pronunciations, I learned so much about different cultures in Paris. That’s another awesome part about having friends from all over: being able to discuss things like religion and social issues with people coming from different places that have a different way of seeing and thinking about things. It’s eye opening and gives you a whole different perspective on things, if you’ll let it.


The Seine at sunset, sitting and reminiscing

Because of all the amazing experiences I had in Europe and all the cultures I was lucky enough to learn about and enjoy, I was actually really worried about coming home and being really sad from missing Paris. Reverse culture shock, they call it. Also, it’s pretty safe to say that I’ve been bit by the travel bug, so I was afraid that once I got home I’d just want to go right back across the pond and keep having adventures. I talked about all this with my sister, because she spent last summer in Nicaragua and fell in love with the country, so I knew she’d understand about not fully wanting to come home. It’s from her advice on the matter that I got the title of this blog: let your heart be where your feet are. It’s okay to miss your abroad experience and new home, but it’s better to be present and focused on where you are now and the experiences you have yet to have there. And adventures don’t have to stop just because you’re not in a foreign country. Adventuring makes life exciting, and I fully intend on adventuring until I can’t adventure any more.

And since this is the last blog, I just want to thank any and all of you who read this blog this semester! I hope it was entertaining and informative of the goings-ons in my life in Paris!

Au revoir!
Anna


GSE Spring 2012 - Paris, France
University of Paris Sorbonne